Alan Stern, Ph.D.

Dr. Alan Stern is a planetary scientist and author. His work has taken him to numerous astronomical observatories, to the South Pole, and to the upper atmosphere aboard high performance military aircraft. 

Stern was selected in 2007 by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

He was selected to become NASA’s NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science, effective April, 2007. He was formerly the Executive Director of the Southwest Research Institute's (SwRI’s) Space Science and Engineering Division. Previously, from 1998 to 2005 he was the Director of the Department of Space Studies at SwRI. Prior to that, from 1994 to 1998 he was the leader of the Geophysical, Astrophysical, and Planetary Science section in SwRI’s Space Sciences Department. From 1991 to 1994 he was the leader of SwRI's Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences group at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. From 1983 to 1991 he held positions at the University of Colorado in the Center for Space and Geoscience Policy, the office of the Vice President for Research, the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA).   As an Atlantica Expeditions Crewmember, Alan is participating as a private citizen.

Before receiving his doctorate in 1989, Dr. Stern completed twin master's degrees in aerospace engineering and atmospheric sciences, and then spent seven years as an aerospace systems engineer, concentrating on spacecraft and payload systems at the NASA Johnson Space Center, Martin Marietta Aerospace, and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado. His undergraduate degrees are in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Texas.

Dr. Stern has published over 175 technical papers and 40 popular articles.  He has given over 300 hundred technical talks and over 100 popular lectures and speeches about astronomy and the space program.  He has written two books, The U.S. Space Program After Challenger (Franklin-Watts, 1987), and Pluto and Charon:  Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System (Wiley 1997, 2005). Additionally, he has served as editor on three technical volumes, and three collections of scientific popularizations: Our Worlds (Cambridge, 1998), Our Universe (Cambridge, 2000), and Worlds Beyond (Cambridge, 2003).

Dr. Stern's research has focused on studies of our solar system's Kuiper belt and Oort cloud, comets, the satellites of the outer planets, Pluto, and the search for evidence of solar systems around other stars.  He has also worked on spacecraft rendezvous theory, terrestrial polar mesospheric clouds, galactic astrophysics, and studies of tenuous satellite atmospheres, including the atmosphere of the moon.

Dr. Stern has over 25 years of experience in space instrument development, with a strong concentration in ultraviolet technologies.  Dr. Stern has been a Principal Investigator (PI) in NASA's UV sounding rocket program, and was the project scientist on a Shuttle-deployable SPARTAN astronomical satellite.  He was the PI of the advanced, miniaturized HIPPS Pluto breadboard camera/IR spectrometer/UV spectrometer payload for the NASA/Pluto-Kuiper Express mission. 

Dr. Stern is the PI of NASA’s New Horizon’s Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission, the largest PI-led mission within NASA. New Horizons launched in 2006. Dr. Stern is also the PI of two instruments aboard New Horizons, the ALICE UV spectrometer and the Ralph Visible Imager/IR Spectrometer.

Dr. Stern is the original PI of the ALICE UV Spectrometer for the ESA/NASA Rosetta comet orbiter, launched in 2004, and the original PI of the LAMP instrument on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, which will launch in late 2008. He was the PI of a NASA Mars Scout mission in the early concept development stage until his selection as NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science, when he left that team.

He was a member of the New Millennium Deep Space 1 (DS1) mission science team, and is a Co-investigator on both the ESA SPICAM Mars UV spectrometer launched to Mars in 2003, the SPICAV UV spectrometer launched to Venus in 2005, and the Hubble Space Telescope Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). 

He was also the PI of both the CHAMP and SWUIS ultraviolet imagers, which flew on a total of four NASA Shuttle missions, as well as the SWUIS-A airborne astronomical facility.  From 1998 to 2002 Dr. Stern flew numerous WB-57 and F-18 airborne research astronomy missions using SWUIS-A. 

In 1995 he was selected to be a Space Shuttle mission specialist finalist, and in 1996 he was a candidate Space Shuttle Payload Specialist.

Dr. Stern has been a guest observer on numerous NASA satellite observatories, including the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the International Infrared Observer (ISO), and the Extreme Ultraviolet Observer (EUVE).  He has in the past been regular user of various groundbased optical and submillimeter radio telescopes.  

Dr. Stern has served on various NASA committees, including the Lunar Exploration Science Working Group (LExSWG) and the Discovery Program Science Working Group (DPSWG), the Solar System Exploration Subcommittee (SSES), the New Millennium Science Working Group (NMSWG), the Pluto Science Definition Team (SDT), and NASA’s Sounding Rocket Working Group (SRWG). He was Chair of NASA's Outer Planets Science Working Group (OPSWG) from 1991 to 1994. He served as a panel member for the National Research Council’s 2003-2013 decadal survey on planetary science, and on the NASA Advisory Council (2006-2007).

Dr. Stern is a member of the AAAS, the AAS, and the AGU and was the 2006-2007 Vice-Chair of the DPS.

Dr. Stern's interests include hiking, camping, gardening, and writing.  He is an instrument-rated commercial pilot and flight instructor, with both powered and sailplane ratings.  He and his wife Carole have two daughters and a son; they make their home in Northern Viginia, outside Washington, D.C.